The Saving Place


                          after Alicia Mountain

Blue light special

and red fountain drink

that’s circulated all week in its tank

             all I wanted was that redness

and to receive

from the clerk

in her blue vest

             a ham sandwich without mustard

though I know, always,

mom will say

what you don’t like

             you just scrape off

The sandwich was

for the whole family

and since I wasn’t paying

             my father loved mustard’s bite

Since he paid

he always had the last

say, disappointment arriving

             in soggy yellow swaths

This is why, maybe I loved

that beverage so much

in its waxed cup, how the red

             turned my mouth something violent

Because we were

poor we went to Kmart

because they had layaway

             for clothes, for goods

we believed we could

afford some larger purchase—

believed in mortgaging desire—

             someday our happiness could be

owned : : easily as a sandwich

secure in its paper sleeve

forget that we felt sometimes

             disposable, easily thrown out

Because we were poor

we did everything

carefully, slower than our

             always breaking down

Grand Marquis. If we

barely moved, no one would

notice us : : We tried

             not to draw attention to

ourselves : : How when

my father drank too much

mom took us camping

             in the car, sleeping in some

parking lot : : Blue lights ooohing

from the cruiser in the dark, the officer

checking to see if things were

             all right : : How we learned to smile

say thanks to almost everything

hoping we could scrape by

another month, sometimes             

             that sandwich had to last

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